No Oil

My son was driving his car today when it started to make a “funny noise.” He turned around and brought back home. When he got there the first thing I did was check the oil level. There was nothing on the stick. He said his oil light didn’t come on and I had him turn the ignition on and confirmed that the oil light works. When he drove up the car sounded like a diesel. We pushed it into the garage and I’m having it towed to my mechanic in the morning. The question is how likely he did damage to the engine. He drove maybe 10 miles (likely less) after the noise first appeared. His car is a 2005 Mazda 3 hatchback.

I don’t know how low the oil level is, only that it wasn’t on the stick. The stick did have oil on it but they were splatters. What oil I saw looked normal but I’m not a mechanic.

I would appreciate some good news being that it is the holidays.

There’s going to be some engine damage. The only questions are how bad and how long before the engine gives up.

The oil pan could be dropped and some bearing caps removed for crankshaft journal and bearing inspection.
That leads to the issue then of what do you do once damage is found visually.

About 10 years ago things piled up and I was super-busy for almost an entire year and never checked the oil in my Corolla. I didn’t realize it at the time, well I sort of did b/c I noticed a little oil dripping under the car where I park at night, I had a valve cover gasket leaking too. So one day before I got into the car I was thinking it is time for an oil and filter change, but no time for that, so I decided it was time to check the oil on the dipstick at least. Nothing. No oil at all on the dipstick. Not even the very tip.

Like you, there was no indication of a problem, the oil light on the dash never came on even briefly. Unlike you, there were no unusual running noises. I added a little less than 2 quarts to bring the oil back to the top line on the dip stick, fully filled, and never experienced any problem since from that incident. When I got less busy I fixed the valve cover gasket problem and changed the oil and filter of course.

The first thing you need to do if figure out how many quarts low you were. From that the experts here can offer some guidance. Since you were experiencing some unusual noise, you may have some damage, but hopefully – cross your fingers – not enough damage that a fill-up with fresh oil and new filter won’t fix.

Thanks both of you. He did say the car didn’t heat up so I’m crossing my fingers. I am no mechanic so I will leave it up to them to figure out what he did. I have a good relationship with my mechanic and they have always told me what has to be fixed and what can be left alone for awhile. Plus they want to buy my Jeep if I ever sell it.

My son isn’t stupid but he doesn’t understand that there are basic things you have to do, like check the oil. His first car, which was iffy (an old Honda Prelude with mods), he ruined. One day I checked the oil and it was more than a quart low. So I filled it and showed him how to check it - between the lines = good. He had a problem one day and limped home with it. I checked the oil and it was well beyond the second line. I ended up draining 7.5 quarts from the damned thing. I again showed him where the oil level was supposed to be and explained that too much oil is as bad as not enough. A couple of weeks he got stranded so I went out to get him. Checked the oil and again it was well over the second line. That was a head meet wall moment. At that point the engine was gone and we sold the car for $500.

This repair is on him. If it means he can’t buy a new surfboard (or boards) then so be it. I told him to put a reminder on his phone to check the oil once a month.

Lack of oil will not show up on the engine temperature gauge so that will have nothing to do with it except in a very subtle manner. The damage would be done before any gauge variation would be noticed and more than likely the engine would scatter itself into pieces before the gauge needle moved.

You might recommend to your son to take a class in beginning auto repair at the local high school or college. I did this years ago, the high school offered a night class for everyday folk to learn basic maintenance & repairs, what’s the most critical things to check for, the difference between one wrench from another, etc. It was just 3 hours one night a week for 13 weeks, and with the aid of the instructors helping me with a couple problems I was battling on my own car, I learned a lot of practical DIY info. And the good thing about adult night classes, no tests!

This suggestion is in the manner of lighting a light rather than cursing the darkness :wink:

Most likely there is damage done and the engine will not last long unless it’s rebuilt. Had you caught it before it started to make noise, it would be possible that adding oil would be enough.

I have a nephew that did the same thing, but his oil light went on…he just chose to ignore it. He had that engine replaced with a used engine and he did the same thing again about 6 months later.

Like my nephew, your son needs to learn a hard lesson.
Not only should he have to pay the bill for the repairs…you should not make this an easy, carefree experience. Unless it is school or work, I’d find an excuse not to give him a ride anywhere and I would not borrow him my car so he can go to his buddies house or beach, or where ever he goes for entertainment. Maybe a few weeks stuck at home with no wheels will make him think a little more about checking his oil etc…


Cavell, blatant insults and unfounded allegations are uncalled for and should not be tolerated.

+1 to TSM and Yosemite, we should stay on topic and try to give helpful advice

I would highly suspect that a shop would pour oil in until it reached the FULL mark on the dipstick and then start the engine to see what happens. And if the engine runs OK with no worrysome noises they would likely recommend that you drive the car paying particularly close attention to the oil level, the oil light and any troubling noises. Of course you can do that yourself, @Den60, and save a considerable amount of money. If you chose to do that yourself and heard troubling noises after 30 seconds or saw oil flowing from some orifice then it would be wise to shut it down immediately and send it to a highly regarded shop.

A good shop would not recommend dismantling the engine to diagnose a problem that is not evident to them. Well, not IMNSHO anyway.

Rod, I have no idea what IMNSHO means (too many characters for my feeble old brain to figure out), but I agree with your post. {:slight_smile:

Sorry… In My Not SO Humble Opinion.

Humility is one of my few(?) failings @tsm.

Rod Knox offered good advise…Fill the crankcase to the correct level noting how much oil it takes. Start the engine and see how it responds…It may take a few seconds for the valve lifters to pump up and the engine to quiet down…If the engine seems to be running normally, change the oil and filter and hope for the best…The noise you heard may have been valve clatter caused by collapsed lifters caused by air in the lifters…That’s not a fatal injury…There may have been enough oil left in the engine to keep the bearings alive…

The OP stated the engine sounded like a diesel. That was probably valve clatter due to air bubbles mixing with the oil getting into the lifters causing them to collapse (I assume they’re hydraulic). There may have been enough oil being pumped to the bearings to prevent any significant damage. I would just bring the oil up to the full mark, then start it up and see what happens. What have you got to lose? It will still be noisy when first started. It may take a few minutes of idling to purge the air out of the lifters before they quiet down.

Edit: Oh geeze! It looks like I plagurized Caddymans post. Was typing mine as his posted. Cross my heart!

Rod, thank you. My son’s car needs service anyway and I have free towing with AAA. Like I said, I have a good relationship with my mechanic and they have a good reputation around here. I thought about putting some oil in it and seeing what happens but I am not a mechanic and would prefer that someone who has knowledge do that. About my guy, I was referred to him from someone else who told me he would tell you exactly what needed to be fixed and what was something that could wait. One time I took my car in for new tires and an alignment at a shop I used a lot (a tire shop), but they got rid of their key guy (and have since brought him back) after a change of ownership and decided to also go into the regular maintenance field. When I picked up my Jeep they gave me a list of things I needed to have fixed (unasked). I declined but took my Jeep to my regular mechanic with that list soon after for regular maintenance. He went over everything on the list with me after looking over my Jeep and said none of it was warranted at the time. The worst on the list was a leak at the rear main seal but my guy said it was very minor - though I had them fix that later on just so I didn’t have to worry about it.

Oh, and if you can figure out how to get your son to pay attention to these things, let me know how you did it. I could use any tips you have. A few days ago I had dinner with my daughter, and asked her if she’s been checking the oil on the car she bought a month ago. She sheepishly said no. I offered… almost pleaded… with her to let me check her oil for her, but she declined. I love my kids (adults, actually, for many years now) with all my heart, and they’re both very smart in their own ways, but despite all my efforts over the years neither has any interest in taking care of car. If it starts in the morning, they both figure it must be okay.

I should add that I would 1000X rather have offspring who have grown to be the responsible and caring adults that they have with a lack of interest in their cars than to have offspring who care about their cars more than about other people. I’m extremely, indescribably proud of both of them. Now if I can only get them to check their oil… {:stuck_out_tongue:

Guess I’m the odd man out again. :slight_smile:

I’m also not a gambling man, never have been, and never will be. However, I’d lay 20 bucks on the line that engine is damaged internally. Ten miles of rattling is going to harm a number of things.

With oil it may start up, run fine, and may even appear to be quiet but it’s not something I’d go far from home with.
My reasoning is based on the fact that I’ve been into more engines than I can remember under various situations related to lack of oil, insufficient oil, irregular oil changes, diluted oil, etc and not one of them was ever found to be “fine”. Just my 2 cents… :slight_smile:

mazda motors are pretty tough. you could add oil yourself. or have it towed to garage and mechanic can do it. do you have a CJ jeep? or different model? curious why mechanic wants to buy it

Thanks Caddy and M2C. Rather than do that myself I’d rather have someone who knows more about cars than me start it. But, as I posted, what you two guys mention is exactly what they plan to do.

I’ll let y’all know what they find.

The “free” towing takes some of the sting out of it and your mechanic can’t charge you too much to dump a couple of quarts of oil into it…The rest is all guesswork…Nobody here or at your shop has X-ray vision or supernatural diagnostic powers…